Compost = the secret to a lush & healthy organic garden
I am often asked questions about composting "Why's" and "How To's" and about using compost - so I'll give my observations and experiences here because I think this subject is important enough to deserve a seperate page.
I've also included a few links where you can find more ideas if you want them.
Having an actual compost bin (or several) can be nice - especially if you have neighbors close-by who are easily offended. * Of course, you should NOT put anything artificial or anything that has been treated with chemicals into your bins/piles/pits.
But you don't have to have a bin to get good compost.
You can compost in many ways.
1.) Use bins
2.) Use piles
3.) Use pits
I use all three methods.
We dig small trenches or holes ( # 3 of the above) in the garden and dump in our kitchen scraps ( fruit & veggie peels-cores- seeds..., egg shells, shrimp shells ?, coffee grounds, tea bags... ) - then cover with dirt.
I usually do this after the garden has been planted.
It takes a good 6-8 months for the scraps to break down so by burying them next to my plants, the scraps have time to decompose and while they are - they are also feeding this years crops.
By the time I need to to plant next years crops, the soil is enriched and most of the scraps have been reclaimed by the earth.
There is no smell and no unsightly mess for the neighbors to complain about.
I use piles for extra grass clippings. I leave a thin layer on the lawn to feed it and I put some in my pits and bins, but I have a big yard and you can't put too much of any one thing in your pits or bins or the balance will be off. I also use some of my (and my friends/family/neighbors' [who would bag theirs and send them to a landfill if I didn't take them - untreated grass ONLY] extra grass clippings as mulch under my fruit trees, tomatoes, and around my flowers too.
We make piles for branches, extra leaves ( Again, I get the leaves of my parents and some neighbors who would have thrown them away and not all of them can go into my pits or bins.)
The branches of my fruit, nut and rose trees/bushes, I use in my smoker grill for cooking. I also use branches for plant supports and campfires... .
I don't like to put "food" in my piles because I have a bear who lives in our woods and I want him to STAY in the woods. He might think I'm feeding him if I put my food scraps in an open pile.
At the end of the season, I put the spent plants in a pile to decompose and come the next spring, I use these dead plants to start the new compost bins. This allows them to finish "rotting" and be ready compost for next year. If I don't give them the head start of being in an open pile, the heavy stalks are only half broken down when I need to use the compost from the bins.
As for the bins, I already mentioned that the main reason I use them is because I have bears and other critters who I don't want to invite over for dinner ;)
Also, if you have a small yard or close neighbors, bins are nice to keep your decomposing "Black Gold" from looking messy.
Whether you are using one, two, or all three methods though, it is important to layer the materials ( a layer of grass, then dry leaves, then food scraps, then pine cones... and repeat... for example) to keep it from getting matted down and to get a balance of nutrients for your healthy finished compost. It is good too if you can stir or rotate the materials somehow so air can get in. This helps the materials break down faster by keeping the pile "hot" and keeps the smell down.
Almost anything that was once "alive" can be composted. I've even heard of some folks who add meat and bones. From everything I've read though, I don't think it's a good idea. I don't put them in the compost piles/bins because they stink and will attract critters.
You have to have a balance of "green" (grass and fruit & veggie scraps...) and "brown" ( dry leaves,pine needles, untreated wood shavings or paper...) raw materials and the mix should be moist, but not soaking wet.
You can compost some cardboards IF they are not chemically treated and any colored artwork on them is of a vegetable nature - not a chemical ink/dye.
My "secret" ingredient in my compost piles is rabbit poo. It does not need to be composted in order to use in the garden because it is mild and has no bad micro-organisms, but I like to add it to my piles/bins/pits because it really helps the breakdown process along and adds nutrients to the finished compost. If you don't have rabbits, you could add a few handfulls of GOOD soil to help your compost pile/bin along.
* Remember, whatever goes in - will come out - just in a different form.
Composting serves several functions:
It is a natural fertilizer. You don't have to worry about "burning" your plants if you use compost like you do if you use chemical fertilizers.
With compost, you are feeding your soil, not just your plants. Your soil will be healthier and give evidence to that fact by being full of worms and micro-organisms.
By composting your grass clippings, leaves, kitchen scraps... - you are not adding to the already huge problem of filling up landfills.
Don't buy fertilizers, make it - compost.
Do you know where you food has been, how it was grown, or the gardening principles of who grew it ?
Support your local organic farms and farm markets !
Thank You !
Diana's Vintage & Gift Shop in Hubbard, Ohio
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